When Peter Jackson announced that he’d be stretching The Hobbit into three movies I was a bit wary, but excited. While the book itself could have easily been put into one, maybe two, films there’s enough lore in the world to fluff our three movies. Still, it seemed like a stretch. However, after I enjoyed both the first and second films — fully acknowledging that they were not as good as the original LotR films — I was all set to watch an over two hour action sequence take place in the third.
Really that’s all that’s left. What amounts to a pretty minor part of the book after (spoilers) the death of Smaug is now stretched out into a full film. Two hours of Middle Earth action sounds pretty good to me, especially after enjoying the first two. I should have known that it isn’t action that makes Middle Earth awesome.
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Release Date: December 17, 2014
The Battle of Five Armies picks up right where the last film left off, but this isn’t a sequel picking up the story from a previous film. It is literally as if you hit pause on The Desolation of Smaug then came back a year later and remembered you had been watching it so decide to just hit play again. It makes sense since the film was clearly just meant to be one massive four-hour-long Tolkein wank, but that means if you haven’t kept every character up to date in your memory or re-watched last year’s film you’re going to be rapidly attempting to remember what the hell was going on as Smaug starts to burn down Lake-town.
Whose that guy with the bow and arrow? Oh that’s right, it’s Bard (Luke Evans), the heroic human who wants to protect his family from Smaug and eventually rebuild his now destroyed town with the help of the dwarves. And the dwarves? They’ve locked themselves in their new kingdom as Thorin (Richard Armitage) gets driven mad by his lust for gold. And what about the elves? Weren’t there elves? Well one is Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the other is Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and they’re there just to be elves it seems. Of course the good Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) returns as well to hobbit his way around. So now that we’re all caught up what’s the plot of this one? Get the gold.
The real issue is we’ve played this game before in Middle Earth and on a much grander scale with far more plot to hold it up. Of all the Hobbit films this one feels the most like filler. It woefully steals from its LotR predecessors as if begging us to remember how awesome we felt about those films. The problem is reminding us of them only shows us how lacking this one is. Thorin’s “dragon madness” reeks too heavily of the desire for the one ring and thanks to that the film’s themes fall flat. What we’re left with is what should be a 20 minute action sequence stretched out into two and half hours.
To be fair the movie starts off fantastically since it’s basically the conclusion of the previous film, which ended with its own masterful action sequence. Bard’s take down of Smaug is stunning and hearing Benedict Cumberbatch back voicing the dragon, however briefly, is fantastic. Then it just starts to unravel until at one point we’re treated to some sort of hallucinatory dream Thorin has of being drowned in gold. That’s the moment you know that they were out of ideas and just doing whatever the hell popped into Peter Jackson’s head.
Jackson’s head is an awesome place. This is a spectacular visual feast, even if they gave up on the 48 fps presentation. No one does giant battles and action sequences like Jackson and the special effects, direction and sets are just stunning. The movie is a visual triumph as all of the films have been, but pretty pictures only get you so far, and with five other films full of pretty Middle Earth pictures they garner even less distance here. There’s just not enough to keep this one going.
Freeman’s Bilbo deserves to have been put into a two movies instead of stretched into three he’s so enjoyable. Other actors seem a bit tired of the whole thing, though that may just be me applying personal opinion since they filmed this all at once. Ian Mckellan doesn’t seem so into it anymore and I’m still not sure why Lilly or Bloom are in the films at all except for a lame attempt at a love triangle between a dwarf and two elves. Just more padding.
In the end that’s all The Battle of Five Armies is: a lot of padding. It’s pretty padding. It looks good and feels like something you’ve enjoyed sitting on before, but once you sit down it starts to show it has no stuffing inside. The film desperately tries to rekindle the magic of its predecessor’s, but it can’t because it’s run out of what makes the film’s special. It isn’t grand fantasy, it’s personal story. Someone should have cut Jackson off and put the films into two long movies instead of letting him ramble on for three. As it stands I wish the one ring was real so we could make this film disappear.